PENNSYLVANIA — The student newspaper staff at the CommunityCollege of Philadelphia is back to work after weeks of unavailable office spacecaused the cancellation of two issues.
In a meeting held Monday, school officials David Watters, JenaviaThompson-Weaver and David Greene gave The Vanguard office space andpublication supplies that had been held for five weeks, three of which TheVanguard intended to use the supplies.
“It was a little good, a little bad,” co-editor Jerry Whitworth said. “Wehave our room and some of our things, but of course it is completedisarray.”
The issue began over the summer, when The Vanguard staff was told tomove rooms at short notice according to co-editor Wendy Destin. He said he feelsthe new room is unfit to handle their 10-person staff.
“It is approximately a little less than half the size of our other room,”Destin said.
CCP spokesman Anthony Twyman said the move was part of a large-scalerenovation and restructuring of the Student Life Department.
The students did not pack their own things, so the administration packedeverything and put it in a locked closet five weeks ago. Since that time thestudents have been unable to access any of their materials.
“It looks like the paper was singled out,” said Frank LoMonte, Student PressLaw Center executive director. “It is differential treatment from other studentorganizations that makes the administration’s conduct suspect.”
Twyman said there were several policy and procedural issues at play, and ameeting between several administrators and The Vanguard staff was neededin order to resume publication. However, this meeting did not occur until Aug.13, weeks after the paper was set to begin work. Twyman refused to comment onthe specific policy issues.
“College administration can’t stop publication of a paper indefinitelybecause of a paperwork dispute,” LoMonte said. “It should be obvious that ifcolleges were allowed to place administrative roadblocks in the way ofjournalists that many of them would abuse that authority.”
Twyman said this type of meeting is held periodically with all studentorganizations, though he could not confirm if any other student clubs neededsuch a meeting prior to starting this fall.
“While the Student Vanguard may have missed publishing while a collegeadministrative reviewoccurred, it was not the intent of the College toimpede the publication of the paper,” Twyman wrote in an email.
According to the co-editors, they unsuccessfully worked to get around thepaperwork hurdle.
“We have repeatedly tried to give accommodations, saying we can meet onsuch and such date, but it hasn’t happened,” Destin said prior to the meeting.
The students had two issues of contention: They wanted their office andsupplies back, and they wanted a computer that had been promised to them usingthe $8,000 in excess funds from the previous year’s budget.
Prior to the meeting, Destin said he was told by Director of Student LifeDavid Watters that the money was put into a general Student Life fund, and wasirretrievable for The Vanguard. However, during the meetingadministrators told the staff the computer had been ordered.
Destin said he feels the supplies were kept to punish the staff for notmoving. He said he would have understood if disciplinary action was takenagainst himself, but he felt harboring newspaper supplies was unjust.
“I just think that honestly this seems very unprofessional,” Destin said.”They are supposed to handle that in a professional manner.”